A guest post by Colin Brent:
As regular visitors to this site may well be aware, over the past couple of years we have received several visits from a research team from Japan, led by Maki Hiratsuka. They have been researching the impact of youth work, looking at work in the UK, Denmark and Finland, and have taken a particular interest in IDYW’s story-telling methodology.
A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to be able to repay the visit, as myself and Tania de St Croix travelled to Japan to take part in three seminars on story-telling in youth work, as well as an extensive programme of visits to projects in Sapporo, Tokyo and Kyoto.
Setting out, both of us were slightly hesitant – what could we possibly offer to youth work discourses in a country neither of us had been to before? What would youth work in Japan even look like? However, any doubts were swiftly allayed, as we worked with a team of academics and youth workers to plan the seminars, with a commitment to engage with some of the meaty issues youth work always throws up.
Having delivered our first seminar at Hokkaido University in Sapporo – around 60 people attended, with a real mix of ages and backgrounds – we were similarly delighted to find the quality of youth work in Japan to be so high (and so well resourced). Over the two-week visit, we went to several open access youth centres (learning the colours in Japanese over numerous games of UNO), as well as youth-led projects, from bakeries to home work groups, and a wonderful little bus that served waffles to young people hanging out in parks. Invariably we stayed long beyond programmed, either enjoying chatting with the young people or engaging with the youth workers in the universal debates about boundaries, politics and recording work!
The seminars themselves were very well received, with over 200 people attending in total (something it would be great to see in the UK…). Whilst youth work in still relatively young in Japan, there is obviously a real appetite to explore ways to communicate what it can achieve, as well as to develop practice, with local politicians and local authorities coming to the seminars.
We left feeling that we had both learnt not just about youth work in Japan, but also about our own practice. And most importantly, that our visit had been of some use of our colleagues in Japan. We are now looking forward to hearing more stories of youth work from over there, and hopefully the opportunity to develop more projects together in the future.